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Russia’s Last appeal to US Voters: Russia has no intention of interfering in America’s Presidential Elections

The hope is that Trump will continue to "sow chaos" in the U.S. political system, distracting Washington elites while Moscow defends its own interests

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FILE - A woman wears a shirt reading "Trump Putin '16" while waiting for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to speak at a campaign event at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H., Feb. 7, 2016. VOA

Moscow, November 8, 2016: As the U.S. presidential campaign winds down to its final hours, Kremlin presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov issued Russia’s own last appeal to US voters: Russia has no intention of interfering in America’s elections.

Never mind White House charges of Kremlin hacking of Democratic Party computers. Never mind the Wikileaks release of Clinton campaign emails that US intelligence says come from Russia’s secret services. And never mind a relentlessly partisan Russian state media campaign that has promoted one candidate over another – both at home and abroad.

In a year where Russia has taken center stage role in America’s elections, the Kremlin spokesman dismissed interest in any possible Russian subterfuge as simply “absurd.”

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“[The Americans] have enough problems without us,” said Peskov.

Welcome to the next phase of the Kremlin’s take on America’s elections:

Whoever the victor, the outcome will show how broken and corrupt the American democracy has become.

And the Kremlin is preparing.

In the run up to election day, Russian state television is warning of ‘dead souls’ rising from the grave to vote (for Clinton); ‘carousel’ voting in the inner cities (for Clinton), decrepit American election infrastructure prone to manipulation (by Clinton); and suggesting the will of American voters (for Trump) will be subverted by the U.S. electoral college delegates (for Clinton).

Dmitry Kiselev, anchor of the weekly Vesti Nedeli (News of the Week), whose nationally televised program has pushed conspiracies surrounding the American vote for months, predicted nothing short of a stolen election (by Clinton).

“After these elections, the U.S. may find its addressing itself with the same phrase that it awards others: that the U.S. elections were not transparent, were conducted without real competition, and included mass falsifications and government abuse.”

“They cannot” concluded Kiselev, “be considered free or democratic.”

The message, says Vladimir Frolov, a foreign policy analyst and columnist with The Moscow Times, is clear.

“The intent is to discredit the system,” he told VOA. “So-called American democracy stinks. It’s a circus and nothing to envy,” said Frolov.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, July 26, 2016. VOA
FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, July 26, 2016. VOA

Kremlin favorite?

Even to casual Russia observers, the Kremlin’s passive preference for a Donald Trump presidency has been apparent, if not understandable, throughout the election season.

Trump’s positions on key issues of the day – from Syria, to Ukraine, to NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe – dovetail with Russia’s own declared interests. Clinton campaign charges that Trump is colluding with the Russian authorities notwithstanding, FBI-led investigations into the issue have found no proof.

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That, said Frolov, makes little difference from the Kremlin’s point of view. “What’s not to like?” he asked.

By contrast, state media has relentlessly embraced far-ranging conspiracies surrounding Hillary Clinton’s campaign: Mrs. Clinton is sick and ailing; she is corrupt and facing certain indictment or prison; and she is beholden to nefarious dark forces, including radical terrorist groups.

Most importantly, Clinton is portrayed as virulently anti-Russian.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s antipathy to the Democratic Party nominee, in particular, is well known. In 2011, he accused Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, of “giving the signal” to thousands of Russians who protested rigged elections during the country’s parliamentary elections.

Polls reflect the pileup of negative coverage since.

Over a third of Russians believe a Trump presidency will bring an improvement in relations. By contrast, a majority think U.S.-Russian relations – already deeply troubled – will suffer more under a future Clinton administration. A separate poll showed nearly half of Russians think a direct war between the U.S. and Russia likely.

Amid the growing Russia controversy this election season, Putin denounced candidates playing “the Russia card.” Moscow, said Putin, was willing to work with either Trump or Clinton — provided the new occupant in the White House meets Russian interests halfway.

But Konstantin von Eggart, a long time analyst and host of the independent TV Rain channel’s coverage of the U.S. elections, says he finds the Kremlin’s overt tilt towards Donald Trump “bizarre.”

“I think Russia’s policy is a big blunder,” says von Eggart. “Even in the Soviet days the Politburo wasn’t influencing in the U.S. elections because they knew they’d have to work with whoever was the next American president.»

Yet von Eggart predicts the Kremlin will double down in the event of a Clinton win on November 8th. “They’ll blow out of proportion any irregularities to say the Trump was denied victory.”

The hope, he adds, is that Trump will continue to “sow chaos” in the U.S. political system, distracting Washington elites while Moscow defends its own interests.

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Meanwhile, foreign policy analyst Frolov argues the Kremlin’s focus on undermining the current U.S. campaign is merely “a shot across the bow” ahead of Russia’s own presidential elections – scheduled for 2018.

Vladimir Putin, in and out of power since 1999, has yet to declare himself a candidate. But Frolov suggested a future memo to Washington regarding the election day 2018 was already being drafted:

The message: “Who are you to judge?” (VOA)

Next Story

Border Security Bill: Debate Furies Over U.S. Presidential “Emergency Powers”

Well it's clear one side is losing and that's the American public, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid or who are not going to work. In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown.

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A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Jan. 9, 2019, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a border security bill, averting a government shutdown on Friday, but plans to formally declare the southern U.S. border a “national emergency,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

The declaration would clear the way for Trump to authorize new funding for a permanent physical barrier. The move would end contentious negotiations with Congress over funding for the wall, but some legal analysts worry it will set a dangerous precedent for presidents trying to negotiate with Congress.

In January, during a 35-day partial government shutdown caused by a dispute over border wall funding, VOA spoke with John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brooking Institute, about the legal issues around a possible emergency declaration by the president.

QUESTION: What powers does a president have to declare a national emergency? Could he simply order government funds to be used to build a border wall?

So there are really two questions here. First, under the national emergencies act, the president has a fairly broad power to declare a national emergency. Now the declaration of that emergency is simply that — a declaration. And according to a pretty firm reading of that law, it’s hard to see where there is an exception to the president’s ability to do it.

Donald Trump
In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown. Pixabay

The next part of that, though, involves the powers that the president can exercise under that law and there are obvious limitations on that, constitutional limitations and other limitations within the law that the president can’t violate. And unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we haven’t experienced serious questions about presidential power in this space. So it’s really left as an open question right now, in terms of the extent of presidential power that courts will need to sort out.

Q: Could Democrats block this in Congress? Is there any constitutional precedent for presidents simply going around Congress to fund a priority policy item?

So there is, within the law, the ability of Congress to stop a national emergency. It requires both houses of Congress to vote to say that the national emergency is over. Now democrats can certainly do that alone, in the House. They cannot, however, do it alone in the Senate, it would require several Republican votes.

However, this is the type of exercise of executive power that leaves a lot of Republicans uneasy. And you’re already starting to see those conversations among Senate Republicans, saying that if we’re all right with President Trump doing this over a border wall, would we also be all right with a Democratic president doing this over climate change or other issues?

And so I think it remains to be seen whether Congress will have the votes to stop presidential action in this area, whether they’ll have the political will to do it. But they certainly have the power to stop this type of behavior.

To the second part of your question, you know, presidents have tried to go around Congress in terms of spending money in the past or even moving money around within or across budget lines or accounts in the past.

And frequently presidents are stopped because the spending power in the constitution rests with the Congress and so this creates a real challenge for President Trump if he wants to start moving funds or re-appropriating funds or using funds that are not even appropriated, pushing up against that constitutional protection against that power. So he might have the power to declare a national emergency, but he cannot usurp the Constitution in the exercise of powers during that emergency.

The entrance to the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art is padlocked as a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 7, 2019.
The entrance to the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art is padlocked as a partial government shutdown continues, in Washington, U.S., Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

Q: On the politics of the current shutdown, is one side or the other winning? Which sides appears to have an advantage at the moment? How does it end?

Well it’s clear one side is losing and that’s the American public, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid or who are not going to work. In terms of the political actors, you know, the polling that we have suggests that most Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown.

Also Read: Is 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Going To Be The Costliest In History?

A smaller percentage of Americans blame congressional Democrats and smaller still blame congressional Republicans. I think a lot of Americans look at this skeptically and say, “What has changed between the beginning of the president’s term and now that makes this such a dire emergency?” And I think it leaves a lot of Americans scratching their head. President Trump is playing to his base here, but unfortunately his base is a small percentage of the population. And most of the rest of the population is not with him on this issue of the wall. (VOA)